The True Legends range is a sub-line of the Toys R Us-exclusive True Heroes line, themselves a repackage of the rather cool Chap Mei figures from China. Pitched at an incredibly competitive price point (the True Heroes line features 2-figure packs for just $5 and vehicles starting at $6) the line may be cheap, but - as our Review of the True Legends Heroes of Olympus four-figure pack proved - that doesn't mean they should be dismissed as inferior toys.
Can the same be said of this behemoth? Read on and find out!
The Hydra & Hercules Playset
Retailing at $20, this hero and monster set features the figure of Hercules (as seen in our earlier Review), a number of weapons for the hero to wield and, perhaps most impressive of all, the 11'' tall Hydra.
The figure of Hercules is an impressive example of what to expect from the line. Whilst his sculpt is strong, with some great details and fantastically executed production, his articulation is somewhat limited, featuring a twist neck, single-jointed shoulders and a hip twist joint. His entire lower body is cast from a single, solid piece and whilst this does limit his posing potential, it does mean he stands well unaided. It's also worth noting that his shoulder joints feature a somewhat unique arrangement: his left arm is, as you'd expect, a vertical ''swinging'' joint, allowing him to raise and lower the limb but his right arm is mounted on a horizontal ''swing'' joint, meaning his sword arm is always raised but can be brought ''in'' or ''out'' from his body. It seems an odd idea at first but as you begin to pose the figure you begin to see the potential. Purists and fans of complex articulation may not like this figure's set-up but I tend to think of these figures more as ''pose-able statues'' and when approached with that mindset, the potential for neat, dynamic stances becomes clear.
I won't dwell too long on the other accessories included in this pack, as they're identical to those seen in the Heroes of Olympus four-figure pack, namely an ''action twist'' key, a pair of swords, a shield, a manacled chain and a lightning bolt.
Whilst the Hercules figure is a fun, retro-style action figure, chances are that if you own any of the Heroes of Olympus sets then you probably already own him. He's fairly widely available and without sounding dismissive, he's not the reason you'll buy this set. No, the main attraction here is the rather cool-looking Hydra.
As you can see, it's a creature of impressive scale and standing at 11 inches tall it towers over human figures of the same scale.
The design - although originally a little strange - works well, with the two-headed beast featuring a superb level of detail, visible both close-up and at a distance. It's covered in scaly knobs and wicked barbs and looks every inch the fearsome foe.
The twin-head design is unusual but in-keeping with descriptions of the mythical Hydra (which technically had more heads but maybe Hercules just hasn't started lopping them off yet...) What I particularly like is that both head designs are unique, rather than simply being the same piece replicated.
As you can see, both are mounted on necks of differing length. I'd have loved to see some kind of ''telescopic'' effect for the necks (which could have been retracted into the body) but the set-up as it stands works well enough to allow the figure to be displayed with the heads in a variety of poses.
While we're on the subject of poses, let's quickly breakdown the figure's articulation.
Like the Hercules figure, the strength of the toy lies in its sculpt, as - in all honesty - the figure's articulation is pretty limited. Both neck pieces twist at the body and the heads are mounted on joints that are ''sort of'' ball-joints. There's not the full range of movement you'd find on a standard ball-joint but there is some vertical play along with the standard single-joint, which allows for some additional pose potential. The legs are simple single-joints and are somewhat limited by the sculpt's various outcroppings and knobbly bits and the tail has a single swing joint where it joins the body. This isn't a figure you're going to pose slumbering or even rearing-up and there's really very little in the way of body-pose options. Just accept that it's going to just stand there and any dynamism or ''action poses'' are going to come from the neck and head positioning.
Whilst it would have been great to have a wider range of movement and a whole bunch of joints at the knees and the claws, this isn't really a toy that needs it, as the ''default pose'' looks so damned awesome. And increasing the articulation would have no doubt pushed up the price significantly. I think it's a little unrealistic to expect a massive amount of movement in a toy of this size when it's priced so competitively.
And speaking of cost-cutting, this figure is based on an earlier ''fantasy dragon'' release, which featured a light-up play feature. This has been removed but traces remain in the green semi-transparent chest and the scale/spike to the rear, which appears to have been the original on/off switch. This is a very minor point but I thought I'd mention it just for those familiar with the original release who were wondering if this toy included the same feature.
The only other point to raise is that the paint app is excellent, both in terms of palette choice and execution. There's some great close-up detail along with an assortment of brushes and washes that serve to highlight the excellent sculpt detail.
The True Legends figures aren't for everyone. Fans of highly articulated figures or ''real world'' characters will probably dismiss them as simply being cheap or low-quality toys. But if you're a fan of fantasy characters or you like retro-style figures, or you're looking for something that's affordable but will look great on your shelf (or indeed withstand a play vigorous play session) then there's a lot to not just like but love here.
Hercules is a solid example of what to expect from the line. He's a robust, well-made figure cast cleanly (and from a plastic doesn't feel particularly cheap or ''rubbery'') and featuring some great details. Yes, his articulation is limited but it's enough for a younger collector looking for a hero to send stomping across the couch or on a trek through the backyard rockery and for older collectors, his ''neutral'' pose is interesting enough to make him look good when he's on your shelf. Add to this a broad selection of accessories and there's certainly more than enough to keep fans of retro-style figures happy.
And then there's the Hydra. The photos above don't do justice to just how big and impressive this toy is. But it's not just about the size of the thing. The up-close detail, sculpting, casting and overall impression the toy makes is most impressive. Again, like Hercules, the articulation is fairly limited but, like its pack-mate, the default pose is great, with the open-mouths and twisted necks giving the appearance of a writhing, hideous beast caught in a freeze-frame seconds before it devours its prey. Sure, extra joints and more pose-ability would be great but at what cost? And, let's face it, the pose the Hydra comes cast in is pretty much how you'd pose it anyway...
The only negative I can really mention, relating to the articulation, is that the neck pieces would have been great had they had a better range of movement. In the above images I had to pose Hercules on an elevated platform to bring him level with the Hydra's mouths and it's a shame that the neck joint is mounted on the top of the body, as a shift to the front would have allowed the joints to incorporate a motion that would allow them to lower the heads. Still, it's a very minor point and does little to take away from the sheer awesomeness of this toy.
But if you're looking for an awesome giant-sized creature at an affordable price-point (it's currently available for under $20) then you really can't afford to pass on this one, as it's a superb fantasy creature of impressive dimensions, backed up with a great sculpt and neat paint app - marred only slightly by the limited articulation.
A must-have for monster and mythology fans.